Kokopelli is a kachina, or spirit, found in the mythology of the Hopi, Zuni, and other Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. A complex character, he plays various roles, including those of fertility spirit, trickster, and hunter.
Images of Kokopelli are among the oldest that survive in ancient rock art in the Southwest. He is also a popular figure on painted pottery. Usually depicted as a humpbacked figure playing a flute, he often carries a large bag on his back and has antennae like an insect.
The Hopi have several fertility kachinas connected with Kokopelli. In some Hopi tales, Kokopelli's bag contains gifts that he uses to attract women. In others, he carries a baby on his back and leaves it with a young woman. The Hopi also have a female kachina called Kokopell' Mana. During ceremonial dances, a performer dressed as Kokopell' Mana challenges Hopi men to race with her. If she catches her opponent, she knocks him down and pretends to mate with him.
Kokopelli is identified with various insects. Kuwaan Kokopelli, or the Robber Fly Kachina, is named after a humpbacked fly that is always mating. Like Kokopell' Mana, this kachina represents fertility. In a tale about how Kokopelli guided the Hopi to a new land, Kokopelli is either a locust or a grasshopper. When an eagle dares him to pass an arrow through his body, he cleverly slips the arrow under one of his wings.
trickster mischievous figure appearing in various forms in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples
ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern
Kokopelli's flute is similar to the flutes used in Native American religious rituals. As a hunter, Kokopelli may play the flute to attract the mountain sheep he is hunting. The Zuni call him a rain priest and connect him and his music with the gift of rain. According to the Hopi, Kokopelli warmed the land and the winds by playing his flute as he led them to their homeland.
See also Kachinas; Native American Mythology.